Saturday, May 16, 2009

Porno for Tyros

No fireworks this week, just an honest-to-god useful word that I only recently learned about.
tyro (TIE-row) — noun: a novice; someone just beginning to learn a given thing.
Has anyone else managed to get this far in their life without encountering this word? I feel like tyro must have avoided me. Here’s why: When reading, I tend to skip over strange multisyllabic monstrosities but will often take the time to look up shorter that words that I don’t know, the possible underlying logic being that many of the words we English speakers use most often are shorter and that, just maybe, this new, short word has a better chance of working its way into my regular vocabulary than, for example, aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic.

Straightforward though tyro might be, it’s a head-scratcher etymologically. The hand-dandy Online Etymological Dictionary traces its history as an English word back to the Middle Latin tiro, “young soldier, recruit, beginner.” The trail seems to end there. So, basically, the word hasn’t changed much since we started paying attention to it, but despite that constancy no one’s sure how it came to be. Of course, it may well have skipped around like most other words — we just don’t have any record of it doing so.

Previous words of the week:
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